Note from Nine: This is the second of five parts of “A Mythos Carol.” If you didn’t read Stave One… you should do that. Otherwise this won’t make much sense.

I actually made this one a bit more brief than I’d originally intended for two reasons. First, because it was way too freaking long. Second, because it was way too sadThis is a “for fun” story, so while you get the idea of the darkness in the story, it’s more about knowing that these things happened than having to experience them in all the harshness that Desmond would have. 

With the cacophony of his living room wall bursting inward, Desmond moved with surprising spryness to roll over the back of his couch and take cover. By the time he dared peek around to see what had caused the devastation, he’d already prepared four different defensive spells.

Amidst the rubble that used to be the outer part of his home was an old red pickup truck – presumably the cause of the destruction. The headlights largely blinded Desmond, but he could hear the driver of the vehicle open the door and climb out.

“Stay back!” Desmond shouted, raising his hand as it began to glow an angry shade of red-black, “who are you?!”

The figure didn’t stop their approach, but as it drew closer he could finally make out a familiar visage: Tara Norwood, the Wild Talent. Tara was a Mage, in a sense, though not one that was welcome amongst the Convocation. While Cecil treated her with cordiality, Desmond saw Tara for the danger she truly was.

“Bah! The Druid,” he practically spat, though he lowered his arm, “the first of my three visitors in this inane dream I’m having, I presume?”

“Aw, don’t be like that!” smirked Tara, putting her hands on her hips, “I’m bringin’ you the spirit of the holidays! C’mere, boys!”

“Boys?” asked Desmond, cautiously.

There was the sound of a large dog excitedly barking as two German Shepherds rushed out of the truck cab to stand on either side of Tara. One was very silent and stoic, while the other was… very excited, his tongue hanging from his mouth and his tail excitedly waggling through the lingering dust that used to be parts of his wall.

“So you’re the first spirit, or is it one of the dogs?”

Tara grinned as she looked down at her companions. “The dogs are just here so I have some decent company. I’m the Spirit of the Past, come to show you how you fucked up all your life.”

“Why do you look like Tara Norwood, then?!”

As Tara leaned forward, her grin faded, and she glared at Desmond with an uncharacteristically serious expression. “Ain’t you got some regrets, Desmond? Somethin’ that I should maybe know about?”

Desmond scowled, but looked away from Tara, just in time to see the goofier of the two dogs rush to his side and look up at him happily. “I don’t understand why the dogs are here, though.”

“Because they’re good dogs, Desmond,” answered Tara, condescendingly. “Now c’mon. Get in the truck. I got shit to show you before the next spirit arrives.”

“In the truck? But where are we going?” Desmond asked, though he surprised himself by already approaching the passenger door of the vehicle.

“Weren’t you listening? To the past!” Tara chuckled, letting her dogs climb into the truck before getting behind the wheel. “Oh, and if you wanna listen to your own music, make sure you got a good aux cord on ya.”

Soon after closing the door to the truck, and certainly before he could find the seat belt (if such a thing even existed), Desmond let out a surprised scream. The pickup surged forward, though instead of crashing through the other side of his house, the truck seemed to be barreling through some sort of astral dimension.

“This is time travel?!” Desmond called out, one of his hands clutching the dashboard as the other scrambled for the handle above the window.

Much like the seat belts, that handle did not exist.

“You gotta make up your mind,” Tara chortled as she shifted gears, the truck soaring through the starry plane toward some unknown destination. “Do you think you’re dreamin’, or do you believe you’re actually time travelin’ with a spirit?”

The dog that sat beside Desmond – the calmer of the two canines – turned toward him, raising eyebrows as if to echo Tara’s question.

“I may have to admit this doesn’t feel particularly like any sort of dream I’ve ever had,” Desmond conceded, “though I’ve no idea what to make of it.”

“Because we just started! But… here we are!”

Tara slammed on the brakes. Despite it looking as if they were driving through space, there was the sound of screeching tires and the back end began to slide outward. The stars around them spun in a dizzying manner, and Desmond closed his eyes tightly to block out the disorienting scenery.

And then, all at once, there was silence as the truck came to a standstill.

“You can open your eyes, pissbaby. We made it.”

Despite the indignation of being called a pissbaby, Desmond opened his eyes. He gasped as he looked upon the living room of his childhood home. Details he’d long forgotten over the decades stood out fresh and new; from the pale green colour of the drapes to the odd sort of smell that lingered in the air after the vacuum cleaner had been running. Everything looked just as he remembered it.

Other than the bright red pickup truck parked inside.

Tara was already out of the truck and looking around by the time Desmond had gotten enough of his bearings to get out of the truck himself.

“Well, wouldja look at this? Lil’ Desmond!” Tara teased as she stooped down beside a young boy playing on the carpet.

Desmond tentatively walked around the truck to see his younger self playing with some cowboy figures. In the corner was a rather scrawny-looking, sparsely-decorated Christmas tree. On the walls were pictures of his family, several of them being his father and older brother in their US Army uniforms. One odd decoration was the longsword hung over the fireplace.

“Bang!” called out young Desmond, knocking over one of the toys, “that’ll teach you Injuns what for!”

Tara feigned shock, putting her hand to her chest and looking from kid Desmond to adult Desmond. “Woooow. Yer canceled!”

Older Desmond scowled, but couldn’t take his eyes off his younger self. “Very funny.”

The child Desmond continued with his now-dated imagination play while the radio crackled on in the background, until the sound of the front door caught the attention of all three present (temporally displaced or otherwise).

Desmond’s mother, a tired but kindly-looking woman, came into the room. She was trembling, and though there was snow clinging to her overcoat it was clear by the redness in her eyes that Mrs. Medraut was not shaking from the cold.

“Ma!” exclaimed little Desmond, jumping to his feet and running through the spectral form of his older counterpart. 

“No…” muttered the adult Desmond quietly, shaking his head as he observed his younger self realizing his mother’s distraught state. “No, I can’t see this again.”

Tara sighed, shaking her head. The scene froze, though despite Desmond’s protestations he continued to look upon the image of him holding his mother.

“What happened, Desmond?” Tara asked quietly, not daring step any closer.

“This is where she told me my brother wouldn’t be coming home.” Desmond choked slightly on his words. “We’d already lost my father the month before.”

Nodding as if Desmond were only confirming what she already knew, she pressed on. “And then…?”

Desmond swallowed hard, turning away to hide his expression, and also to no longer gaze upon the specters of the past. “And that night, my mother…” A pause. “On the note she left, she told me to live with Aunt Irene.”

Tara chewed on her lip for a moment, then moved back to the truck. “Well, let’s go see how that went, then!”

Desmond’s attention snapped back to Tara, and he moved to the passenger side door of the truck to hiss at her through it. “No! No, we are not doing this. We’re not going to look through all the pain I suffered as a child as some sort of life lesson in compassion. These events are what toughened me into the man I am today!”

Leaning on her steering wheel, Tara smirked at Desmond past the two dogs. “Yeah, that’s kinda the whole problem, isn’t it? The man ya are today, I mean. But fine, fine, we’ll skip over your Aunt Irene and her weird thing with the cod liver oil. Get in!”

Despite his protestations, Desmond climbed back into the truck. “Are we moving on to the next spirit, then?”

“Oh, hell naw. There’s one more thing, I wantcha ta see!”

With a groan from Desmond, Tara’s time-travel truck took off into the strangeness of space once more.

This time, when Tara’s truck finally came to a halt, she actually pulled it into a parking space outside of a diner. In the parking lot were gathered a group of young men with their cars, most of them clad in black leather jackets to fend off the cold. Desmond paled as he realized where – or rather, when – they had arrived.

“Can… can we go see my Aunt Irene?” Desmond asked, the colour draining from his face.

“What? And miss out on seeing Desmond Medraut as a greaser? No fuckin’ way!” Tara was absolutely giddy as she hopped out of the truck. This time her two dogs followed along behind.

“How is this at all relevant to anything?!” Desmond protested, side-stepping to avoid tripping over the excitable dog. “And why are the dogs coming out this time? Last time they stayed in the truck!”

“Last time was a more somber scene,” Tara replied as she strode toward the greasers, “and besides, your mom had just vacuumed! I didn’t want Geri and Freki messin’ that up!”

Desmond paused, dumbfounded for a moment, but was brought out of his brief astonishment by Tara’s squeal of delight; she’d found late-teens Desmond.

“Oh my god,” Tara cackled as she stood on her toes to look far too closely at greaser-Desmond’s face. “I swear, if you stick up your thumbs and go ‘eyyy!’, I’m gonna piss myself!”

“We didn’t really do that!” Desmond snapped, grumpily approaching his former delinquent social circle. “Again, I ask why we are here!”

“One, because this shit is funny,” Tara replied, reaching up to pat greaser Desmond’s head (though her hand just passed harmlessly through). “But for two… it’s her over there.”

Tara pointed toward the diner, where inside a girl around Desmond’s age (at that time) was looking sadly out the window at the gathered hoodlums.

Desmond paused as he looked at the girl, realization slowly dawning upon him. “Vicky…”

“Yeah, you got it! Now why is she in there while you’re out here?”

Sighing, Desmond looked back toward the group of boys that were laughing at a particularly bawdy joke his younger self had just told. “Because I told her to.”

“Because you didn’t want them to know you were with her. She was square or unhip or… whatever the fuck weird-ass fifties term you used. As soon as you got some attention from this ‘in crowd’, you spent less and less time with the girl who propped you up through all those years living under your Aunt.”

“I was barely an adult, still! We all make stupid choices in our youth!” Desmond snapped, whirling on Tara.

“Of course we do!” Tara replied, then pointed back to the diner. Vicky was departing, giving one last sad look to young Desmond before walking off into the night. None of the greasers, including Desmond, took note. “But we need to learn and grow from those stupid choices or we ain’t any better off.”

Desmond silently watched Vicky walking down the street, then closed his eyes. “I never heard from her again after that night.”

Tara walked through the gang (literally) to stand next to Desmond. “You sacrificed a true relationship for something superficial. Why?”

“I don’t know!” growled Desmond, clenching his eyes shut more tightly. “I made bad decisions, I admit, but that doesn’t mean I’m any worse right now! I fail to see how any of what you’ve shown me relates to the situation right… now…”

Desmond opened his eyes to glare angrily at Tara with those last words, but Tara was nowhere to be found. Nor were the greasers, nor the diner. Instead, Desmond found himself standing in one of the darkened corridors of the Convocation building, deathly silent and eerily empty.

“Norwood…?” Desmond asked, confusedly looking around at his new surroundings. “What vision is this, now? My joining of the Convocation?”

“Nah,” came a response – a new voice this time. “Terror’s gone. It’s my turn, now.”

Twitching, Desmond slowly turned to face the next spirit.